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UW Medicine researchers race to find coronavirus treatments

UW Medicine in Seattle. (KIRO 7)

Seattle has some of the best infectious disease researchers in the country at UW Medicine, and they are grinding on finding ways to fight coronavirus.

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Several studies are currently underway. UW Medicine doctors are looking at the blood of coronavirus survivors, the Ebola drug remdesivir, and the lupus and malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

Remdesivir has shown some promise in fighting COVID-19. I had the story last week of 89 year old Howard Stiles who survived the coronavirus and was treated with the drug. His family believed it help him beat the virus, but doctors have said a lot more testing is necessary.

Dr. Helen Chu — the Seattle Flu Study doctor who identified the first community spread case of the virus in Washington — said they are trying to get a better handle on COVID-19, and how survivors’ bodies have fought it off.

“Can we figure out what this good immune response is and dissect out what we can do with the samples that we collect from people that have recovered and then develop targeted therapies that could help in the future,” she said.

Dr. Chu said this iteration of the coronavirus doesn’t work like others, and that’s part of the problem researchers are having.

“There’s a very random component to this virus that is difficult,” she said. “The fact that 30-to-40-year-olds are dying of this is unexpected.”

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Meanwhile, UW researcher Dr. Ruanne Barnabas is looking at the malaria and lupus drug hydroxychloroquine and how it interacts with the coronavirus.

“Within test tubes, they were able to test hydroxychloroquine and found that it prevents SARS-CoV-2 from entering the cell,” she said. “It changes the pH, and it makes the environment less hospitable for the virus.”

Dr. Barnabas told KIRO 7 TV that she is looking for 2,000 coronavirus survivors for her study.

Researchers hope to have some initial findings by this summer.

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